Although a probate judge asked the maternal and paternal family members of Zoey Belcher to agree on which side of the family should have custody of the infant, apparently they failed to come to a consensus because on Thursday a probate judge issued his written opinion in the ongoing custody battle. Zoey, the nine-month old daughter of NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher, who murdered the child's mother, Kasandra Perkins, and then committed suicide at the facilities of his team, the Kansas City Chiefs, on December 1, 2012, will permanently reside with her mother's cousin, Sophie Perkins, of Pflugerville, TX.
The infant has been living with Sophie Perkins since the tragedy back in December, interrupted only by a few brief trips to West Babylon, New York, to visit with her paternal grandmother, Cheryl Shepherd, who was also seeking custody. In his ruling, Commissioner David Wheeler cited the bonding that had occurred between Ms. Perkins and her infant cousin in the past six months and multiple police calls to Ms. Shepherd's home over the past 20 years. In his opinion, Commissioner Wheeler wrote: "While not controlling, and while not making Ms. Shepherd's home inappropriate to raise Minor, the Court concludes that this is evidence of Ms. Sophie Perkins' home being more stable than Ms. Shepherd's home, and this favors the appointment of Ms. Perkins as guardian."
There are numerous estate planning lessons to be learned from this case, but the most important one is this: If you fail to choose a guardian for your minor children, then a judge will choose one for you - a judge who has never met you or your children or any of the members of your family or the family of the other parent of your children. What a scary thought, and one that should be enough to motivate you to put together your last will and testament to prevent this from ever happening.
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